If you live in the city you won’t have missed the putt-putt of well polished Lambrettas and Vespas as they scoot around town looking for a rocker to reminisce with about the good old days. With manifold mirrors, lamps and the inexplicable, yet ubiquitous fox tails wagging from the aerial (and why does a scooter have an aerial in the first place? You can ask a Mod, you’ll get an evasive reply…)
August Bank Holiday Ride Out
If you want to find a Mod to ask, then you couldn’t want for a better focus group than Brighton this weekend. Mods from all over Europe and beyond will be down on the seafront on Madera Drive comparing their pristine machines against one another and then riding out to Beachy Head.
As well as all the action, the more sedate types will be able to enjoy a big screening of Quadrophenia at 5pm on Saturday, followed by a Q&A with Phil Daniels, Trevor Larid and Gary Shale. Once that’s all done and dusted, the music starts! With a live show by tribute band Who’s Next and a DJ set by Drew Stansall.
There are also events at Komedia, Volks Nightclub and so many venues all over the city it’s impossible to list them all.
The Mod phenomena started in the 60s when city kids needed to get around and a cheap moped was the vehicle of choice. People who enjoyed Modernist Jazz needed a way to get around town that was easy to ride, easy to park and looked stylish, hence the Vespa. As well as the Italian moped, they also adopted the Italian suit, a tailoring style that suited a slim figure much more than that British suit which had a more military look. However, to keep their suits clean and dry in the British weather, it was necessary to cover up from head to toe, and the perfect accoutrement for that was the Parka. The need to see and be seen led many to add extra lamps and mirrors to their machines, which, in itself also became iconic to the Mod movement.
The thing that really brought the Mod to the attention of the nation’s media was the run of fights on Brighton seafront between the Mods and the Rockers. The Rockers were, and are, a group who preferred their bikes to be big, powerful and fast. The Ton Up Boys were a distinguished group within the Rocker community as they had achieved 100 mph (a ton) or more on their motorbikes. They took speed and motorcycle maintenance more seriously than what they would see as the pretentious Mod, in his fancy suit riding a silly bike, and so the field of battle was set.
A Trip to the Sea Side
If there’s one thing everybody loves it’s a trip to the seaside and in 1964 both Mods and Rockers fancied a trip to Brighton. The two communities, with such different attitudes were bound to clash and clash they did. The local constabulary was overwhelmed by the running fights that took place not only in Brighton but further along the coast from Margate to Bournemouth and Clacton. These fights led to a moral panic about the wild youth and the media set up a campaign to outlaw anything that they saw as contributing to delinquency. (Of course, in order to fuel sales outrage needed to be maintained and several news magnates were found to have encouraged trouble between otherwise non-committal teenagers.)
Today there is no animosity between the rival gangs and all anybody wants is to admire well maintained and embellished mopeds and enjoy a ride along the clifftops with likeminded lovers of the Modern.